A proposal by the US radio service Voice of America (VOA) to broadcast from Phnom
Penh has been turned down for a second time. Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith said
the Ministry of Information ruled that the broadcasts would affect Cambodia's relations
with its neighbors.
"The VOA belongs to the US government," said Kanharith. "It will broadcast
not only Khmer and English, but also in Laotian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Burmese.
The government would face criticism from these countries."
However, Edward Kaufman, a member of VOA's board of governors, said the station had
applied to broadcast only in Khmer and English. In an email to the Post, he wrote:
"VOA's rationale for requesting a frequency is based in part on the BBC and
RFI (Radio France International) - both have frequencies [in Phnom Penh]."
He said the station was keen to establish an office here as that would enhance its
ability to communicate accurate world news to the people of Cambodia. VOA has tried
for several years to get an FM broadcasting license in the country as Cambodians
use FM far more than short-wave.
"1999 was our target date," said Kaufman. "[However] a number of undecided
matters remain, and we still do not have a firm date to start."
Dr Kao Kim Hourn, a political analyst, said it was important the Cambodian people
had access to balanced information and he suggested the government should follow
a consistent policy.
"If the government allowed the BBC and RFI [to broadcast from Phnom Penh], it
should also allow VOA," Kim Hourn said.
VOA, which is funded by the US government, broadcasts in 53 languages, including
Khmer, to 91 million listeners from Washington DC on short-wave.
Meanwhile a source at Radio Free Asia said his station was told by Minister for Information,
Lu Laysreng, late last year that it had been granted approval to broadcast on FM,
but that permission was revoked several weeks later. No reason was given.